Letter to a Lost Friend

November 2017

We didn't know each other for long. Months, not years. Someone once told me that you can't be upset about losing someone for longer than you knew them in the first place, but I suppose that doesn't take into account the grief and guilt that goes with someone taking their own life.

Our relationship itself was unremarkable really. We met on a dating website in Autumn 2013; two, in fact. We kept being suggested on both sites as a good match so we decided to meet up. We had an instant connection and met up several more times over the following weeks. Increasingly, though, our meetings were at your house as you had begun suffering from depression.

Before long you were too ill to either work or exercise (a big deal for someone who had almost rowed in the Oxbridge boat race), but you were just about coping. Your GP prescribed medication and referred you for a mental health assessment and you seemed to improve a little. Then, another GP changed your medication for another that was "basically the same but much cheaper" and things went quickly downhill.

I tried to be there whenever I could. I listened to you contemplating suicide, and persuaded you to hold on just a little longer. I begged, pleaded, even negotiated that I would help you if I couldn't change your mind when I got to you. But things kept getting worse. The messages became more frequent. I took you to see the "crisis team" as recommended by your GP and then took you back home on the too-frequent occasions they didn't even bother to turn up.

Finally, you had your mental health assessment appointment, the target I'd been pushing you to aim for. They told you that you had deteriorated beyond the scope of their service and that your GP would have to refer you again, this time to a psychiatrist, but that this would take another several months. I think the prospect of that extra wait while you were suffering so much was just too much for you.

Late that Friday night you messaged me and told me you were going to hang yourself. I said I would come over but I was home alone with my sleeping daughter and you said if I brought her, she would see you hanging. I was afraid, and so I backed down and instead just used the same persuasion tactics that had worked before. I said I would come and see you the next day. You said goodbye and stopped replying.

In the morning I couldn't get a response from you so I called the police. Around an hour later I received a call from a very kind sergeant who said he couldn't tell me anything as I wasn't family, but did I have contact details for your next of kin. I was in a shopping centre when I got the call, and even now I could show you the exact spot I was standing and tell you my exact words: "is it as bad as I think?" His simple reply: "I'm afraid so."

I didn't go to your funeral, which I regret. I wanted to but my mother persuaded me not to; I didn't know your family and she convinced me I would just be intruding on their grief. Nor did I go to the inquest, and that I regret even more. You deserved to have your story told, to have someone point to the professionals who failed you so badly and say They Did This.

I let you down and then I let you down again, and I am so sorry. I just hope you're not suffering any more.